blade steel: 1095 or 52100 ??

Discussion in 'Edged Tools' started by Beo-wulf, Nov 13, 2010.

  1. Beo-wulf

    Beo-wulf Guide Bushclass I

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    I have been developing my own heavy bushcraft knife for a long time....years really. I am getting close to production and need a little advice from the knife makers or other experts here.

    I'd like to know your thoughts on a comparison between 1095 and 52100.
    pros and cons both ways please.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. GreyOne

    GreyOne Elder Lifetime Supporter

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    No expert here, and not really knowledgable about the steels in a technical sense, but I would suggest making a trial piece from each material, and heat treating them individually. Then see which is the best combination of edge holding, ruggedness, and ease of manufacture.

    I am sure you can get lots of volunteers to help field test them ! :)
    Heh, Mac and I will take first shot, though. ;) :)
     
  3. IdahoBackwoods

    IdahoBackwoods Guide

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    For a good technical discussion of these and other knife steels, take a look at Joe Talmadge's latest Knife Steel FAQ at

    http://zknives.com/knives/articles/knifesteelfaq.shtml

    I have an old Ruana skinner made of 1095, which has performed very well over many years. I also have a recreation of the Marble's Woodcraft knife in 52100, which has also been very satisfactory. I haven't pitted one of the them against the other, so I can't say more.
     
  4. rasp181

    rasp181 Scout

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    I haven't used the 52100. I make all my knives from 1095 and like the way it grinds and finishes. I also like that the heat treat is relatively simple and I can do it my own shop without sending it out for final heat treat. I think that for the price 1095 can't be beat and it is a proven steel. Many major knife companies use it as well.
     
  5. Beo-wulf

    Beo-wulf Guide Bushclass I

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    I love 1095...have a BUNCH of knives in it.
    But...I am told Ed Fowler loves 52100...and he has my respect.
     
  6. kgd

    kgd Dr. Fishguts Bushclass I

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    I am not an expert except for having a couple of knives in different steels. However I do hang around with a couple of knife makers. Rick Marchand always tells me that heat treat is more important than the steel. He also says that he only works with certain steels because he only has the technology to maximize his control of heat treat for them. I think he put it this way. Look, I might be able to obtain a ferrari but with my equipment I can only make it run like a mini-van. On the other hand, if I take a chevette and make it run like a Dodge with a hemi engine and both I and the client save a few bucks, its a pretty good deal!
     
  7. MoxemDeliph

    MoxemDeliph Guide

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    I have worked with 52100 and it is a bear...I mean really. Mostly becuase I dont have a trip/air hammer or press, I just use my arms. But all of that pertains to forging it.

    Regarding the performance, its some pretty cool stuff. It has quite a bit of chromium, relatively speaking, and a dash of silicon that makes a difference. I mean it is easily three times harder to forge and thats while its 1800 degress...when heat treated well, which took me a while to figure out, it really performs.

    Realistically, it probably holds an edge about 1/4 longer at the same hardness. While the chrome may hinder its toughness, it also deepens it hardenability and I find that with the added silicon that it makes up for it. In all seriousness, your not going to see a %100 increase in performance for a %200 rise in cost.

    You would find simliar performance in 5160, although not the exact same.

    Regarding Ed Fowler, I will say only this: it does not, in any sense at all, take a week to make a 52100 knife. It does not take a three days to heat treat that steel. It does close to nothing to throw a knife in the deep freezer either. He does however make a tough knife and a lot of folks like them.
     
  8. vermillion8604

    vermillion8604 Guide

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    beo , in my opinion i really thought 52100 was the best stuff you can use, but until recently i have been so wrong. I just recently had the chance to use and have fun with a knife from my cousin which is made out of cmp s30v. This stuff is freaking amazing, although its wicked expensive, its toughness and edge holding abilities are second only to the cmp s90v metal, which is even better but even more expensive....the only downfall is that it takes a long time for the initial profile and its difficult to sharpen in the field if you only have a small stone. The only other drawback is that cmp s90v doesn't polish off that great so its more prone to corrosion or rust, cmp s30v is a bit easier to sharpen and you can polish off the metal better therefore its less prone to rusting or corrosion, but if its taken care of like any other carbon steel knife its perfectly fine(referring to both the cmp s30v and the cmp s90v metals). if it wouldn't cost so much, i would have myself a machete made out of the stuff, but alas i haven't the funds for that kind of thing. I actually opened up a savings account dedicated to saving money to have a machete made out of cmp s30v material but it will be a long time till i can save the money for that lol.
     
  9. Beo-wulf

    Beo-wulf Guide Bushclass I

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    I am really leaning toward the tried and true 1095...unless somebody with experience in 52100 can talk me into it.....btw, I am not doing this knife myself...I am getting a full time maker to do it...he likes 1095 a lot...just thought I would kick around this idea.
     
  10. TwinBlade

    TwinBlade Guest

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    I have beat the ever livin' hell out of a couple 52-100 and 50-100b Bark river knives. The steel held very well in heavy abuse and use.

    The 52-100 and 50-100b steels take an exceptional edge (almost scary...very tough to describe it) and also take an admirable patina. I would venture to say that 52-100 is not as finicky about heat treat and initial quench timing. Past that, I am a staunch advocate of both steels if properly heat treated...say 57-59 Rc.
     
  11. oldpinecricker

    oldpinecricker Scout

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    steel

    Dead on truth and no hype in this post.

    My personal take is use 5160, 10x steels, or perhaps -01and everything gonna be alright. I can honestly make an blade 5160&10x alloys and they work. 1095 will keep costs reasonable, not to mention it flat out works.
     
  12. Oakwoodforge

    Oakwoodforge Tracker

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    I've made a bunch of blades and tools over the years and my shop is pretty primitive, no digital controlled salt pots or electric heat treat oven. I just use a charcoal forge and the proper quenchant for the steel I'm working with. I've never had consistent results with 52100, It seems a bit touchy to heat treat correctly and is a PITA to forge & grind. I do however have very predictable results with my primary go to steels, W-1, 1084, 1095, O-1 & 5160. I'd go with what I know & trust personally. I'm fairly sure the right guy could make a 52100 blade outlast & out cut anything I can make...But YMMV

    Jens
     
  13. MoxemDeliph

    MoxemDeliph Guide

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    On a side note, you will not find many stock removal (grinders) knife makers using 52100 becuase the cost of flat stock is extremely high. You can currently buy a 3' bar of .75" 52100 for about $10. A peice of 1-1/2 wide by 12" long by 1/4" thick stock reaches around $25 or more...I havent priced it lately becuase it was so high last time I looked.

    Point is, flatstock in that particular steel is outrageous. By volume, I think the last time I added it up, it was about %450 higher, or 4.5 X's more expensive.

    Regarding what has recently been said, you will be happier with ease of sharpening in the field with 5160 or 1095 compared to 52100, at the same hardness. If the make took 52100 down to 55 RC or so it may make it easier.
     
  14. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Scout

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    Beo-Wulf,
    What type of heat treat set up do you have? As Ken mentioned, I'm a firm believer that the steel should match your capabilities. Do you have a PID controlled oven? What type of quenchant are you using? Do you forge or stock remove? All of this is very important.

    Both 1095 and 52100 are excellent steels.... they are also the most unforgiving if handled improperly.

    The plain (and sobering) truth is most will never use their knives to the point where these attributes shine. Infact, you could make a seemingly terrific knife that is riddled with stresscracks, carbon ribbons, and massive grain growth.... and nobody would be able to tell from normal everyday use. Until someone like our own Chuck Carney gets a hold of it and finds every weakness wrestling gators in the swamp! Not a good time to find out.

    Makers have a responsibility to educate themselves on steel, as it pertains to knife making. Know the difference between Eutectoid, Hypoeutectoid and Hypereutectoid steel and what alloying elements mean with regard to heat treat.

    I could go into detail with scenarios that would shock some honest makers into never touching something over .86% carbon again.


    Rick
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2010
  15. tnrick55

    tnrick55 Banned Member Banned

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    im like the 1095 too.
     
  16. Beo-wulf

    Beo-wulf Guide Bushclass I

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    As stated earlier in the post.....

    "I am really leaning toward the tried and true 1095...unless somebody with experience in 52100 can talk me into it.....btw, I am not doing this knife myself...I am getting a full time maker to do it...he likes 1095 a lot...just thought I would kick around this idea."
     
  17. amcardon

    amcardon Scout

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    Due to the "pain-in-the-butt" qualities of 52100 I would lean more towards 1095. I have worked both and the 1095 is MUCH easier to work with. Since somebody else is doing it, well then that's their bias instead of mine. However, if you're the type who is looking for a nice hamon in your knife I would definitely go with the 52100 over the 1095. If you don't care about a hamon and are just looking to have a user made for you I would just go with 1095. Honestly I don't think many people out there would notice much of a difference between the two and you will be (or should be) very satisfied with either.
     
  18. barnes3126

    barnes3126 Scout

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    IMHO, It is all about the temper. If your guy like 1095 then he will most likely do a better job with 1095. My BK9 is 1095 and it is amazing. We chopped down about 40 3" pine saplings and it would still shave. I have 2 skinners made form 52100, they are sharp but have not been tested.
     
  19. Rick Marchand

    Rick Marchand Scout

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    Sorry bout that Beo-wulf.... I missed that one. If your guy has been working in 1095 then that's what you should go with. If he works both, then I would go with 52100. It will out perform 1095 given the heat treat is done properly.

    If a maker is using the stock removal method, then many of the dangers involved with hypereutectoid (>.86% carbon content) steels can be avoided. Most mill stock is ready to go and as long as you aren't overheating the steel during the heat treat, you aren't going to run into problems. Still, if you don't have the equipment to accurately hold temperature for extended periods of time, you won't get the most out of your 1095 and may as well be using 1084. 52100 is more complicated still, as it has an even richer alloying.

    When steel goes into solution, not everything happens at the same time. Alloying elements such as vanadium, cromium and manganese all serve different purposes and come "alive" at different temperature ranges. 1095, for instance, needs to be brought up to temp slowly and held at 1450F for 10-30mins to allow the carbon to go into solution. It has manganese to increase the hardenability and vanadium to maintain grain size. Heated too quickly and the alloying doesn't get distributed evenly, heat too much and you get grain growth.... but that is not the end of it... or should I say the beginning?

    If you forge 1095 and 52100 you have to pay close attention to your temperatures and follow a process that prepares the steel for the stages to come. Hypereutectoid means that there is more carbon present in the steel then can be put into solution and locked into the grain structure. Those extra carbons have to go somewhere. If you work the steel in a way that distributes those carbons evenly then you get a fine grain structure with great hardenability and extra wear characteristics.... YOU WIN!!! If you fail to follow procedure and have little control over your heats, all that extra carbon could migrate to the grain boundries and congregate in large "ribbons" along the structure. In essence, you have just placed a long line of the hardest most brittle substance in the world, straight through your blade.


    It's not about the steel
    It's not about the geometry
    It's not about the hardening
    It's not about the temper
    It's not about the maker

    When intended use, steel choice and working procedures are in harmony, you will have a fine blade... THAT'S what it's all about.


    Rick
     
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2010
    plantedtao likes this.

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